Harry Potter Meets The Ender's Game: A Review of Insignia by S.J. KincaidMonday, August 20, 2012
by S.J. Kincaid
Genre: young adult science fiction > dystopian
Publisher: Hot key books
Publication date: July 2012
Pages: 444 (paperback)
Source: ARC from publisher
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More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?
When a girl with a cute avatar invites Tom Raines to a video chat, he finds himself beating a video game that he didn't even want to play. That cute girl turns out to be Heather Akron, a combatant for the Indio-American alliance, and Tom just passed their test. Tom's skills in video games gets him whisked off to the Pentagonal Spire, the India-America training base, and gets a neural processor implanted on his brain faster than you can say Yoda. And all the boy wanted was a date.
Tom is just your average hormonal teenage boy; he has acne, he falls for the pretty popular girls, and he has the insatiable need to be better. He wants better hair, better height, better relationships, and a better life. His father is a gambler and his mom married a government poster-boy for perfection that hates Tom's guts, so he has his own fair share of teenage angst. Tom is the breadwinner of his 'family', gambling and playing racing sims to feed his father and himself. He finally gets a breath of fresh air when he gets assigned to the Alexander Division and he meets Vikram, Beamer, Yuri, and Wyatt. I really enjoyed reading from Tom's point of view. His voice felt raw and refreshing, and I really felt like I was seeing his world through his eyes.
Vikram, Beamer, Yuri, and Wyatt are probably the weirdest group of friends ever. They're a bunch of really intellectual teenagers who understand politics, religion, sexuality, and literature better than most of the human population but put an exceptionally attractive human being in front of them and everyone is reduced to fiddlydiddlies. Basically, the entire population of tumblr personified.
The world in Insignia really blew me away. Basically, the government recruits special teenagers to fight for the military. Before you rant about child labor, they don't actually fight in real life. All of the action takes place in virtual simulations. That being said, Insignia is pretty much technology-centric and you'll find a lot of technical jargon floating around. The 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars references makes up for it, I think. The book also touches on war, corruption and hypocrisy in the government, and the book certainly doesn't sugarcoat. It went into detail about these things instead of just doing the bare minimum and it was amazing.
I am in love with this book. Kincaid definitely delivered a science fiction novel that is one of a kind. Fast and exciting, it's one of those books that will make you say "I'm just going to read one more chapter, I swear!". The book was action-packed since page one and it had my full attention- it never had a boring moment! Insignia has lovable characters, a mindblowingly unique plot, and a world that is so different and yet so the same. I can't even pinpoint what it is I loved about the book so much. Everything, I think. Open a new tab or head to the nearest bookstore, i don't care- just snatch yourself a copy of this amazing read.